The Health Section

How 12 communities are trying to fix violence, food deserts and inactivity

Cities and counties across the United States face unique challenges and obstacles that may prevent them from creating healthier communities for residents. Whether it’s a polluted environment or the inability to access healthy food, some communities lack the resources to address these obstacles. Aetna is involved in a partnership to help 50 cities and counties across the country implement changes to create a healthy community.

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), in collaboration with CEOs for Cities. The challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to communities that show measurable improvements in health indicators and social determinants of health.

Here are the finalists from the northeastern region of the United States:

Coalition United to Reach Equity (CURE) — Bridgeport, Connecticut

Adults and adolescents in Bridgeport are consuming less than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, food policy council and community members and leaders also identified the need for a grocery store and living wage jobs. CURE will address violence prevention, access to healthy foods and job training.

New Haven Asthma Alliance (NHAA) — New Haven, Connecticut

The NHAA is bringing together the health, education, youth services and housing sectors to lower the impact of asthma on low-income children. School nurses will have access to children’s medical records and be able to refer students to asthma-focused summer camps. Families can also enroll in smoking cessation programs.

Advancing Complete Streets in the City of Lynn — Lynn, Massachusetts

Lynn’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council is working to improve the city’s walkability. Policies and procedures will be updated to ensure Complete Streets principles are being met. Residents will be engaged to help identify focus areas. The goal of the project is for residents to go on a “car diet” — placing more of an emphasis on walking or cycling within the city.

Jersey City Mind/Spirit/Body Program — Jersey City, New Jersey

The Mind/Spirit/Body Program re-frames how a community thinks and reacts to violence in a city environment. The project will take a holistic health approach and serve the youth population through activities that support the healthy development of the mind, spirit and body. The goal is to reduce violence within the community.

Camden SMART Initiative Reengagement Process Project — Camden, New Jersey

With Camden’s combined sewer system, a one-inch rainstorm can cause major roads to become impassable, turn parking lots into lakes and send sewage into parks, homes and waterways. The SMART Initiative will reduce the number of sewer overflows to improve water quality and green infrastructure. Through mobile apps, community meetings, social media and flyers, the SMART Initiative will give residents the opportunity to identify flooding areas.

Dutchess County & City of Poughkeepsie Microgreen Project — Dutchess County, New York

Access to healthy food is an issue in Dutchess County, where many adults consume less than five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The microgreens project will help supplement the nutritional needs of children and seniors, as well as provide jobs to those leaving the county jail.

Healthy Beverage Zone (HBZ) Project — Bronx County, New York

The incidence of obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases in the South Bronx is among the highest in the state of New York. The HBZ will work to reduce the proportion of community members who drink one or more sugar-sweetened beverage a day.

Prisoner Health is Community Health: Bringing Transitions Clinic to Providence — Providence, Rhode Island

The project will engage with those who are recently released from prison and have chronic illnesses, such as substance abuse and mental illness. These individuals will be given a home, medical care, housing and employment, as well as assistance in navigating the health care system.

WalkWorks ChesCo! — Chester County, Pennsylvania

The WalkWorks ChesCO! Program will promote, educate and empower individuals to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The project will aim to get adults to walk more in the community through programs and environments and policies that foster opportunities for walking. The program is also focusing on lower income areas and where there is a higher rate of chronic disease.

York Healthy Homes Collaborative (YHHC) — York County, Pennsylvania

The YHHC will take an existing city-wide health and wellness initiative and broaden it to include York County. Education will be delivered to low income families about hazard control, asthma trigger remediation, smoking cessation and secondhand smoke concerns for children. The information will also promote healthy activity and teach basic safety measures.

Million Clicks for Million Hearts — Allentown, Pennsylvania

Million Clicks for Million Hearts is a walking campaign aimed at preventing obesity and heart disease. Using a key that syncs to JobClock devices along walking routes, participants can log their walks along various paths. Incentives will be offered for frequency of walks.

Active Living Blair County — Blair County, Pennsylvania

Blair County has a low health ranking because of sedentary lifestyles, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other preventable long-term conditions. Community leaders want to continue the efforts originally started by school and medical facilities to improve community health.

Find out more about the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge finalists in the West, Midwest, Southwest.